By John Boyle Herald Writer
MILL CREEK — It’s a Tuesday night, three weeks after the Super Bowl, and still Seahawks mania is in full swing at Mill Creek Sports.
If ever you needed a reminder of how far the economic impact of a Super Bowl run goes beyond the league, teams and TV networks, it was on display on this night.
Brandon Mebane was on hand for a signing, and while Mebane had a fantastic season, he’s hardly the first person you think of when you think of players who would draw a crowd. Yet there the fans were, lined up hundreds deep on a chilly night in something that has become a regular ritual at the sports memorabilia store Scott Mahlum started in 1991.
A historical Seahawks season was good for business for a lot of people all over the region, from bar and restaurant owners to TV salesmen to anyone selling anything with a Seahawks logo or a 12 printed on it. But while the Super Bowl boost tapered off for most business after the game, things are still cranking at Mill Creek Sports several nights a week during player appearances.
“Retail wise, we’re probably four times a normal January or February,” Mahlum said. “January was like having a second Christmas, then once they won the Super Bowl, it was like a third Christmas. It’s a retailer’s dream.
“People are definitely crazed. People show up four, five hours in advance, even when they know they have a guaranteed ticket. They want to be first.”
And come to think of it, it’s not just player appearances bringing Seahawks fans out in droves. While Mahlum, his manager Brent Holcomb and the rest of the staff have been impressed with the turnouts for player signings, nothing was quite like what happened when Beverly Sherman came for a signing. That’s how Seahawks-crazed this area has become; Richard Sherman’s mom draws a huge crowd. While player signings require a ticket purchase, priced anywhere from $19 to $99 dollars, Mahlum and Holcomb figured demand wouldn’t merit requiring tickets for a Beverly Sherman appearance at their shop on the Saturday of the Super Bowl bye weekend. They were wrong.
“The strangest thing I saw was when Mama Sherman showed up,” Mahlum said. “We figured we’ll get her plane ticket, have her come up, do a free signing, won’t be a big deal. Then all of a sudden, probably a thousand people show up. We had to cut it off and hire police to handle the parking lot traffic. It wasn’t even an athlete, and a thousand people probably showed up.”
Or maybe that wasn’t the craziest thing about a Super Bowl season.
“The craziest I’ve seen it was the day before the Super Bowl,” Holcomb said. “There was a line outside the store to get in. We had no signings — obviously the players were in New York — but people just lined up to buy stuff. This is a pretty big store, and there were people lined up to get in. We couldn’t keep up … It was exciting.
“People who would normally spend a couple hundred bucks a month on memorabilia were dropping two, three grand on whatever they could get.”
The Seahawks made plenty of money as an organization on their way to a Super Bowl. And some players will benefit financially from the team’s success when they negotiate their next contracts. But one of the coolest effects of a successful sports team is the way a region rallies around it, and as a result, the way local business can benefit.
In the case of Mill Creek Sports, that meant more than quadruple their usual business over the last two months, the hiring of two more full-time employees, and even a little overtime for local cops when Mama Sherm comes to town.
At the Mebane signing last week, a father walked in with two children and joked, “we should buy stock in this place.” When his daughter asked what that meant, dad explained, “because we’re here all the time.”
Mahlum said it’s normal for fans to come from Eastern Washington, Vancouver, B.C. and Portland for signings, but on this particular week, one Seahawks fan made the 20-or-so hour drive from Southern California just so he could spend the week attending signings at Mill Creek Sports and other places offering player availability. Sports success isn’t just good for fans who want to feel good about their teams, it brings real money to the local economy.
“It’s kind of taken over our lives,” Mahlum said. “It’s been great, don’t get me wrong, but long hours, always playing catch-up.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.